Fitful flags and Platty Joobs

Fitful flags and Platty Joobs

Column for JN June 8 2022

In Britain and Israel in the past several weeks it has been anniversary time, from the Queen’s ‘Platty Joobs’ as I learn we must call Her Majesty’s 70-year-long reign, to Israel’s Independence Day and then Jerusalem Day.

Jerusalem Day, of course, was created in order to mark the reunification of the city after the 1967 Six-Day War. But it has always seemed to me to be a kind of fake festivity, since anyone who truly believes that the capital is a united city has clearly never visited there.

Despite many goodwill intentions from some on the city council, Jerusalem remains a place of division, where Jews live in the western neighbourhoods, primarily, and Arab Israelis live in the east. Please let nobody fool themselves that people of different faiths are living in integrated harmony – because they aren’t.

This is not to say the communities don’t mix at all. They do, mainly in the workplace, from restaurants to hospitals, and there are some genuine, classy relationships across the divide.

But Jerusalem Day, as it is currently celebrated, has become a deeply uncomfortable event, hijacked in its earliest years by the Likud and now, as we saw in some terrifying scenes just over a week ago, the province of the extremist right-wing Israelis.

Many people will have seen videos of hundreds of young men, mostly wearing kippot and tzitzit, marching through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, chanting disgusting slogans such as “Death to Arabs” and “A good Arab is a dead Arab”.

If this is what the religious right is calling for these days, Israel’s supporters in the diaspora should have no part in it. More than that, I expect our communal organisations to condemn such behaviour, but there seems to be radio silence on that front, so far.

The jingoism that seems to go hand-in-hand with the waving – or indeed the wearing – of the national flag, is deeply worrying. Time was when the flapping of the Union Jack sent out a scary signal to British Jews, about fascism from the National Front and their fellow travellers. But it has taken the Queen’s Jubilee to reclaim the Union Jack, so that millions of proud British citizens can fill our streets, and enjoy the fruits of genuine patriotism and what this country has to offer.

The jingoism that seems to go hand-in-hand with the waving – or indeed the wearing – of the national flag, is deeply worrying.

Conversely, however, the Israeli flag seems to have gone in the other direction. Now, those who wave it appear to do so with a kind of righteous venom, and I’m only talking about those who do so in Israel. It’s a really sad conclusion that the fragile Israeli coalition is so nervous of upsetting the powerful right-wing that it didn’t ban the ugly Jerusalem Day march. Maybe it’s time for a major rethink on that front.

Just space to allude to the repellent Chris Williamson, the former Labour MP for Derby, who sent out a message on social media I couldn’t believe even he had written.

He said: “Members of Iraq’s parliament have passed legislation that prohibits the normalisation of relations with the apartheid state of Israel. I look forward to the day that the British parliament follows Iraq’s fine example.”

That fine example, of course, being that the “crime” incurs the death penalty, something Williamson apparently imagines Britain will impose on citizens who associate with Israel.

Now, where did I put that flag?

  • 17 July, 2022